Adjunct tells stuttering student not to speak

Philip Garber Jr. isn’t afraid to speak up, despite his stutter. When the 16-year-old was told not to ask or answer questions in his history class at County College of Morris — the adjunct said he was wasting other students’ time — Garber complained to the dean, who switched him to another instructor. The New York Times ran a front-page story, the college is investigating and the adjunct isn’t likely to be rehired.

After the first couple of class sessions, in which he participated actively, the professor, an adjunct named Elizabeth Snyder, sent him an e-mail asking that he pose questions before or after class, “so we do not infringe on other students’ time.”

As for questions she asks in class, Ms. Snyder suggested, “I believe it would be better for everyone if you kept a sheet of paper on your desk and wrote down the answers.”

Later, he said, she told him, “Your speaking is disruptive.”

After 30 years as a middle-school social studies teacher, Snyder began teaching history at the community college 10 years ago.

Garber is taking history and composition at the local community college, while finishing his home-schooling curriculum.  He travels into Manhattan once a week to “work on acting and playwriting with Our Time Theater Company, a group for people who stutter,” reports the Times. He hopes to be a photojournalist.

Don’t FEAR Your Stutter, be PROUD, You’re Still Standing! says Garber on his YouTube channel, TheStutteringMan.

Update: Snyder says she told Garber she’d call on him once per class.

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  1. Stacy in NJ says:

    After viewing the video I’m feeling some sympathy for the instructor. There needs to be a balance in meeting the needs of all the students. While Philip should feel free to participate, it appears like he wasn’t considering how his stutter was consuming class time making it difficult for the instructor to move through the material effectively. The email and direct approach the instructor took was undiplomatic. She needed to communicate the same point but do it in a less direct way, probably by limiting question and comment time during class. Frustrating but necessary in our politically correct era.

  2. I’m afraid I’m an advocate for both sides in this case because I’m a Speech Therapist and I’ve taught in the school system.

    If the teacher “reprimanded” Philip for talking she is definitely at fault and should learn more about the facts of stuttering.

    However, if Philip was constantly raising his hand so much that the teacher couldn’t get through the information she needed to for the class period (she did ask Philip to come see her after class)…

    …then that’s unfair to the students and Philip needs to be more respectful of their time.

    No one other than the students in the class and the teacher know what the context of her (the teacher) comments were, so it’s a tough situation to judge.

  3. Ann Althouse has this.